Learning theories and online learning

Tony Bates, St. Petersburg Times, Jul 30, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

If you need a short chapter-length overview of (educational) learning theories, this is the place to look. Tony Bates reviews the major contenders from Behaviourism on down. He takes the perspective that a lot is known about the field: quoting Knapper, "there is an impressive body of evidence on how teaching methods and curriculum design affect deep, autonomous, and reflective learning. Yet most faculty are largely ignorant of this scholarship..." Maybe so, but the underlying question has to be answered: how much of this evidence is actually accurate and useful? My own take is: almost none of it. As time goes by, we get more theories of education, not fewer. That's not how it should work. (One more quibble: Bates says, "Connectivists such as Siemens and Downes tend to be somewhat vague about the role of teachers or instructors." I can't speak for George, but I think my papers and presentations on the topic are pretty precise.)

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